Republican senators want to protect people with anti-gay beliefs with the First Amendment Defense Act

President Trump has promised to sign the First Amendment Defense Act into law

Twenty-two Republican U.S. senators have reintroduced the First Amendment Defense Act, a bill that would potentially allow people to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals or same-sex couples under the guise of “religious freedom,” reports The Hill.Discrimination

The bill would insulate any individual who holds “a sincerely held religious belief” opposing homosexuality, transgenderism, or same-sex marriage, or any business operated by an individual with such beliefs, from being penalized or punished by the government should they be found to have discriminated against such people.

As a result, it would prohibit the government from levying fines against people who discriminate, denying them government contracts, or taking away special tax breaks, so long as the person claims that their refusal to provide goods or services was motivated by their religious beliefs.

Critics have warned that the bill is so broadly written that it would not just condone discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and same-sex couples, but single mothers, divorcees, those who engage in premarital sex, or anyone else whose lifestyle does not comport with a person’s religious beliefs, no matter how radical or out-of-the-mainstream those beliefs may be.

The bill was sponsored and introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), and co-sponsored by several prominent conservative senators, including Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), and Rand Paul (Ky.).

A similar iteration of the bill was introduced in both the House and Senate in 2015, but only received a hearing in the House. The measure failed to gain traction, and was eventually set aside by leadership amid protests from Democrats, and the realization that then-President Obama would veto the measure if it managed to pass Congress.

Lee had previously promised to reintroduce FADA after Donald Trump was elected president. Lee’s House counterpart, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), now running to be the next governor of Idaho, said last he would introduce similar legislation in the House during the current session, but never did, according to a search of filed bills in Congress.

By John Riley, metro, March 8, 2018

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Estate Planning for Dummies – The Important Steps You May Have Already Taken

Estate Planning for Dummies explains the most basic estate planning tools, many of which you may have already implemented without even knowing it.

Estate planning for dummies is a misnomer.  Because the premise of this article is that you may have sufficient estate planning in place, you are clearly not dummies.  But understanding how to make the most of your estate plan, will ensure that you and your family are protected in case the unforeseen occurs.

Do I need a Will?”  This is usually the first question asked by clients.  The short answer is yes and, to better understand why, it is important to know the protections that a Will provides.  A Last Will and Testament is the cornerstone to a comprehensive estate plan.  Whether you have children or not you do have assets.  Depending on their size, more complex planning may be required.  But the key to knowing whether you have unwittingly begun work on your estate plan, you must know what property passes under a planning basics

Probate Asset v. Non-Probate Assets

Wills cover probate assets, or assets held solely in your name. Examples include real property, bank accounts and personal belongings. Personal belongings are key because many people do not like the idea of a distant relative rooting through their most cherished items after death. Wills do not pass non-probate assets, or assets held jointly with someone else (like a bank account or real property held as a married couple or as joint tenants), assets held in trust for someone else or any asset that has a designated beneficiary, like an insurance policy, a 401(k) or an IRA retirement plan.

The goal of a good estate plan for a married couple is to maximize you non-probate asset designations.  If done correctly, there will be no need for a probate process upon the death of the first spouse.  Probate is the process by which the state of a decedent ensures that their Last Will and Testament was drafted and executed correctly, that the assets and debts of the decedent, the person who died, are identified, that the debts are paid and the assets are distributed according the decedent’s Will. The New York probate process governs the transfer of legal title of property from the estate of the person who has died to those named in that person’s Last Will and Testament.

If you are married and your home is listed in both spouses’ names, then the house will pass automatically to the surviving spouse with no need for probate.  Likewise, if you have joint bank accounts, the assets in those accounts pass outside of probate.

right of survivorship, JTWROS, joint tenantsMany city couples rent their apartments, making their most valuable assets their investment or retirement accounts.  For these investment vehicles, you may name your spouse, or partner if you are unmarried, as a designated beneficiary.  You may also name multiple designated beneficiaries as long as the percentage allocations are clear to the administrator of the investment/retirement account.

Estate planning for dummies = the maximization of non-probate asset designations.  It is the best tool you have to avoid probate.  And while this type of specific planning may allay the need for a Will, it is always a good idea to have a Will in place, even if you do not need to put that Will through probate.  If you are unmarried, it is of particular importance that you have a Will because the protections of marriage, which include naming the surviving spouse as the default beneficiary of a decedent’s assets, will not apply to you and your partner.

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Same Sex Parents Still Face Legal Complications

At gay pride marches around the country this month, there will be celebrations of marriage, a national right that, at just two years old, feels freshly exuberant to many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

But while questions of marriage are largely settled, same sex parents still face a patchwork of laws around the country that define who is and who can be a parent. This introduces a rash of complications about where L.G.B.T.Q. couples may want to live and how they form their families, an array of uncertainties straight couples do not have to think about.

“There are very different laws from state to state in terms of how parents are protected, especially if they’re unmarried,” said Cathy Sakimura, deputy director and family law director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. “You can be completely respected and protected as a family in one state and be a complete legal stranger to your children in another. To know that you could drive into another state and not be considered a parent anymore, that’s a pretty terrifying situation.”gay parents adoption

Adoption laws, for example, can be extremely contradictory. In some states, like Maryland and Massachusetts, adoption agencies are expressly prohibited from discriminating based on sexual orientation. At the same time, other states, like South Dakota, have laws that create religious exemptions for adoption providers, allowing agencies to refuse to place children in circumstances that violate the groups’ religious beliefs.

Alan Solano, a state senator in South Dakota, sponsored his state’s adoption legislation. He said he was concerned that if those groups were forced to let certain families adopt, they might get out of the adoption business entirely, shrinking the number of placement agencies in the state.

“I wanted to ensure that we have the greatest number of providers that are working on placing children,” Mr. Solano said. “I’m not coming out and saying that somebody in the L.G.B.T. community should not be eligible for getting a child placed with them. What I hope is that we have organizations out there that are ready and willing to assist them in doing these adoptions.”

But as a practical matter, lawyers who specialize in L.G.B.T.Q. family law say that in some areas, religiously affiliated adoption organizations are the only ones within a reasonable distance. Moreover, they say, such laws harm children who need homes by narrowing the pool of people who can adopt them, and they are discriminatory.

“There is a very serious hurt caused when you’re told, ‘No, we don’t serve your kind here,’ and I think that gets lost in the public discourse a lot,” said Susan Sommer, director of constitutional litigation for Lambda Legal. “There’s just this narrative that absolutely ignores, and almost dehumanizes, L.G.B.T. people. They’re missing from the equation here.”

There are a number of laws that can affect L.G.B.T.Q. families, from restrictions on surrogacy to custody, and the landscape is constantly shifting.

by Elizabeth A. Harris, New York Times – June 20, 2017

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Second Parent Adoption Necessity: Securing Parentage in Uncertain Times

Second parent adoption necessity has become the primary topic of discussion for me both at work and in my private life. 

Is there a second parent adoption necessity?  Everyone wants to know whether their family is safe.  Since January 2017, I have received more calls from parents who have not gone through the second parent adoption process for whatever reason and are now concerned that their children may be the ones who suffer from the lack of clear and incontrovertible parentage; a parentage that second parent adoption provides.

Why do I have to adopt my own child?  Many gay and lesbian parents are asking this question when attempting to understand the second parent adoption necessity.  In New York, married lesbian couples who have used anonymous sperm donors are allowed to be listed as a parent on their child’s birth certificate.  Gay couples who have children with the help of a surrogate mother may have petitioned for and received a pre or post-birth order declaring them the legal parents of their children.  They may also be on their children’s birth certificate.  So why is second parent adoption a necessity?second parent adoption necessity

The answer to this question is perhaps the most confounding that I have had to provide clients and friends.  If you can guarantee that your relationship will never end in divorce or dissolution and that, if it does, both individuals will prioritize the best interests of the child first and foremost, then perhaps you can get by without a second parent adoption.  But the reality of a relationship ending is never certain and, unfortunately, the non-genetically related parent is vulnerable to what may be costly and emotionally terrifying consequences.  While the few cases we have seen that have addressed the issue of the validity of a pre or post-birth order have ultimately upheld those orders, those cases cost the litigants tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This is because every jurisdiction has different laws around parentage, some more friendly than others.

With a second parent adoption, there is no question about the parentage rights of a non-genetically related parent.  Even with recent New York case law protecting non-adoptive lesbian parents, there remains questions about what rights other than the standing to sue for custody and visitation exist without adoption.  Federal social security benefits attach to “natural or adopted” children.  Inheritance rights attach to “natural or adopted” children.  Without adoption, future clarification will be needed to accurately assess when parentage exists.

Assisted Reproductive Technology and Gay Families – Sometimes it feels  like we are all just waiting for the law to catch up to how gay and lesbian couples have their families.  One recent decision from Brooklyn, Kings County Family Court to be precise, describes this issue masterfully and concludes that second parent adoption is the one way to ensure that couples are protected as state courts and legislatures grapple with assisted reproductive technology (ART) issues.

While the court in this decision confirms that a parental relationship exists in most cases with or without the adoption, it also holds that married gay and lesbian couples are entitled to second parent adoptions to expel any doubt about parentage and to protect families, particularly when they travel throughout the country and around the world.  The good news is that in many states, New York included, a marriage is not a prerequisite for a second parent adoption.

Whether you are a lesbian couple with a known donor or an anonymous donor, or whether you are a gay couple with a surrogate mother and a pre or post-birth order, the second parent adoption necessity is very real.  Second parent adoption is the right choice to make to protect your family from any future uncertainties.

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Conscious Surrogacy – Making the Best Decisions For Your Family

Is there such a thing as conscious surrogacy? Yes, and those considering surrogacy will be confronted with some serious ethical questions.

Conscious surrogacy is a process. It is critical to understand some of the questions, and dilemmas, that you will face if you choose surrogacy to help you have your family.  If you are prepared to answer these questions before your surrogacy journey, and if you are comfortable with your answers, then you are ready to have these conversations with a potential surrogate mother.

What are some of the questions that you will face on your conscious surrogacy journey?

Do I want a single embryo or double embryo transfer? Do I want twins?  One of the first questions you will have to consider is whether you want to try and have twins with your surrogate mother.  Many choose this option for economic reasons.  If you know that you want more than one child, consecutive surrogacy journeys may not be an option.  But there is much more to consider.

conscious surrogacy

Twin pregnancies are much harder on the surrogate mother.  It can mean doctor ordered bed rest for your surrogate and more doctors’ visits, particularly in the third trimester.  Twin pregnancies also bring a higher risk of complications for the surrogate, such as preterm labor, and hypertension.

Twins arrive earlier. A normal singleton pregnancy is 40 weeks.  Most twins arrive early, at or before 36 weeks, which means that one or both of the children may require an extended hospital stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit.)  Some doctors state that in 50% of twin pregnancies, a NICU stay is required.  This by itself may give parents pause about choosing a double embryo transfer.  Studies show that consecutive singleton births result in better medical outcomes than a single twin birth.  With all the information, you can make a conscious decision.

Do I want PGD or PGS? Preimplantation genetic diagnosis or screening is now being offered by most IVF facilities.  PGD or PGS allows a parent to view the genetic material of their child before an embryo is implanted in a surrogate mother’s womb.  PGD/S can show whether a child has any genetic disorders, the sex of the child and other genetic traits that may complicate a pregnancy.  While infertile couples who use IVF (in vitro fertilization), or anyone with a preexisting genetic condition,  may be familiar with PGD/S, couples or individuals who have their families with the assistance of a surrogate mother will most definitely be asked whether they want the information that PGD/S provides.

Knowing whether there is a genetic complication prior to embryo implantation may be in the best interests of all parties, however, choosing the sex of your child before it is born ventures into an ethical quagmire. Most families do not have this information and, while the technology exists, you must ask whether you want the information that it can provide.  The mental and physical health of your surrogate mother must be a priority in making this decision.

Do I want to selectively reduce if complications arise? Perhaps the most important questions you will confront is whether or not to selectively reduce, or abort, an embryo or fetus if there is a danger to the surrogate mother or to the child.  In reality, no state will enforce a gestational carrier contract which requires selective reduction.  The surrogate mother will always have the final say.  But you must know what you want first before you can discuss it with your surrogate.

While abortion is one of the most controversial topics in American society, it is routinely a part of conversations that intended parents have with their surrogate mothers. Surrogacy agreements attempt to cover all possible outcomes and obstacles that can arise during a surrogate pregnancy.  The most important aspect of this topic is being able to communicate your beliefs and desires with your surrogate.

There are many more issues that intended parents will face. Conscious surrogacy is about understanding the major decisions surrounding these issues and being able to come to a place of peace with each one, first with yourself, then with your surrogate mother.  Respecting her autonomy during the pregnancy will take you a long way toward reaching this goal.  Maintaining open and honest communication with your surrogate mother will also help to ensure that the journey is successful for all involved.

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Same-Sex Parents Still Face Obstacles Under New York’s Standing Rules

Prior to the tragic events of Sunday, June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida, one might have felt optimistic about the evolving societal acceptance of and respect for same-sex parents and the corresponding progressive state of family and matrimonial law.

We shared in the sense of uplift from the recent United States Supreme Court decisions in United States v. Windsor and, especially, in Obergefell. v. Hodges, decided a little over one year ago on June 26, 2015. Obergefell dealt in sweeping fashion with discriminatory and unconstitutional objections to marriage for same-sex couples. As set forth in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s dramatic and moving language, the need for same-sex parents, and the children of those relationships, to be granted the social dignity and the many societal benefits that go along with stepping into the light of mainstream acceptance by virtue of a nationwide right to marry is required by the equal protection mandates of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. parents adoption

In concluding that its “analysis compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry,” 576 U.S. 12 (2015), the Supreme Court in Obergefell detailed not just the importance of being able to enter the institution of marriage, but the need for same-sex couples to do so on fully equal footing as other couples, through the front door, and stressed in its exhaustive analysis that the focus should not be on how these couples love, but that they love and wish for that love to be reflected in their social standing.

Choices about marriage shape an individual’s destiny. As the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has explained, because “it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition. Goodridge, 440 Mass., at 322, 798 N.E. 2d at 955″ cited at 576 U.S. 13 (2015).

As this court held in Lawrence, same sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association. Lawrence invalidated laws that made same-sex intimacy a criminal act. And it acknowledged that “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. 539 U.S. at 567. But while Lawrence confirmed a dimension of freedom that allows individuals to engage in intimate association without criminal liability, it does not follow that freedom stops there. Outlaw to outcast may be a step forward, but it does not achieve the full promise of liberty.

576 U.S. at 14.

Further, Justice Kennedy singled out the importance of the right to marry to the children of these relationships.

Excluding same sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families to be somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.

576 at U.S. 15.

In New York, the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in 2011 directed that all of the laws, benefits and obligations bestowed by the Domestic Relations Law with regard to marriage be read and implemented without regard to sexual orientation, and, if necessary to do that, in a gender neutral way.

Section 10-a. Parties to a marriage.

1. A marriage that is otherwise valid shall be valid regardless of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex.

2. No government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage, whether deriving from statute, administrative or court rule, public policy, common law or any other source of law, shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being or having been of the same sex rather than a different sex. When necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities of spouses under the law, all gender specific language or terms shall be construed in a gender-neutral manner in all such sources of law.

Yet, despite the passage of the Marriage Equality Act and the newfound nationwide ability to marry, the courts in New York are contending with circumstances in which same-sex families were formed and children brought into them by using strategies that pre-date the ability of same-sex couples to marry. This approach has potentially devastating consequences when those families and their respective rights are addressed in divorce and family court proceedings. These problems arise from, and the courts continue to wrestle with the vestiges of, a rule established by the New York Court of Appeals a generation ago in Alison D. v. Virginia M., 77 N.Y.2d 651 (1991), which set the stage for categorical discrimination against same-sex parents based upon their lack of a biological or adoptive relationship to a child.

The impact of Alison D. was eroded somewhat by the Court of Appeals decision in Debra H. v. Janice R., 14 N.Y.3d 576 (2010), which, through application of comity, recognized parental standing of a non-biological non-adoptive parent in 2010 based upon Vermont’s judicially created rules granting standing based upon the couple’s civil union in Vermont. However, without the right to marry or enter into a civil union in New York at the time, children of unmarried same-sex couples in New York were not afforded the same benefits and protections.

This discrimination is not so easily remedied by the directives of the Marriage Equality Act because many of the parents involved in these situation were not or are not married at the time that their children are born and because the conceptual framework for the denial of standing is based upon a biologically based terminology that is found throughout the family and matrimonial law. This terminology reflects a fixation with the biomechanics of conception, a fixation which runs deeper than mere gender assumptions. Instead of a focus on the “best interest” of children, which is the bedrock determination of all other matters related to their custody and welfare in New York matrimonial and family law, the New York Supreme, Family and Surrogate’s Courts continue to trip over the threshold issues of “standing” when it comes to same-sex parents because of references to “birth” parents or the heterosexual and gender assumptions implied by the use of the word “paternity.” For example, a “paternity” test directed in Family Court proceeding continues to only apply to men and only to establish the biological relationship of men to children obviously born to women. Perforce, this excludes same-sex couples.

By Meg Canby and Caroline Krauss Browne

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In win for gay couples, Maryland high court recognizes de facto parents rights

Maryland’s highest court has ruled that non-biological parents, de facto parents,  who live with and help raise children also have parental rights, overturning a 2008 decision that gay and lesbian advocates considered devastating to same-sex couples.

In a unanimous ruling issued Thursday, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that family-court judges can consider whether persons are de facto parents in custody and visitation cases. Advocates say Maryland was one of a few states that considered such parents strangers in the eyes of the law.

De facto parents can include the partner of a lesbian who undergoes artificial insemination, a gay man whose partner adopts a child from a country that does not allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt, or a straight man who raises a child with a woman for years without formal parents adoption

Until the 2008 court decision, such people generally had the ability to maintain some parental rights in Maryland even when their relationships with their partners crumbled.

Then the Court of Appeals ruled against a Baltimore County woman who sought custody or visitation rights with a girl who had been adopted by her ex-partner. The court said “third party” parents should not be treated differently from other third parties seeking custody. That meant they would need to show exceptional circumstances or that the legal parent was unfit in order to be awarded time with children they had helped raise.

This week’s ruling concerned a different case and reversed the precedent set by the court in 2008. Denying rights to third-party parents “is ‘clearly wrong’ and has been undermined by the passage of time,” Judge Sally Adkins wrote in the decision.

LGBT advocates hailed the ruling for correcting what they saw as a continuing injustice against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, even after voters legalized same-sex marriage in 2012.

“Now Maryland joins the majority of other states in taking those parents and children out of limbo and putting them in solid legal footing,” said Jer Welter, a lawyer with FreeState Justice who represented plaintiff Michael Conover in the case ruled on this week.

Mr. Conover is a transgender man who had married a woman before undergoing his gender transition. Their wedding took place in the District, which legalized same-sex marriage before Maryland did. Courts treated him and his ex-wife as a same-sex couple for the purpose of the dispute.

Brittany Conover gave birth in 2010 to a child, Jaxon, who was fathered by a sperm donor selected with the input of Mr. Conover, then known as Michelle, according to court records. The couple separated the next year and divorced in 2013.

Ms. Conover stopped allowing her spouse to visit in 2012. She argued in a later custody battle that her former partner never adopted Jaxon and was not listed as a parent on the child’s birth certificate.

Lower courts agreed that Mr. Conover lacked parental rights. The Court of Appeals ruling returns the case to a Washington County judge with the concept of a de facto parent restored in law.

“I am elated that the state’s highest court has ruled that people like me should have our relationships with our children legally protected,” Mr. Conover said in a statement.

R. Martin Palmer Jr., an attorney for Ms. Conover, said the court usurped the role of lawmakers in defining a parent and may have created a situation in which stepfathers can take control of children from capable mothers.

By Fenit Nirappil / The Washington Post, July 9, 2016

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Family Estate Planning

Family estate planning addresses the greatest concern of most families with younger children: ensuring their stability and security if something happens to a parent.

No one wants to think about a worst case scenario; however, that scenario will become much worse if there isn’t  family estate planning in place. The good news is that once it is completed, parents do not have to worry live in worry anymore.

There are many types of family estate planning and I will review several that may be helpful to your family. They include: basic estate planning, trust planning, guardianship planning and securing all parental rights to a child through adoption, if applicable.

Basic Estate Planning – In most states, a valid Last Will and Testament is the only legal way to name a guardian, other than the other biological or adoptive parent of a child, when one parent dies.  It is critical to have a Will in order to make this designation.  Most couples are concerned about something called a “simultaneous death event,” which is defined as a single event, or series of related events, that takes the lives of both parents.  A competent attorney will be able to prepare for this possibility in a Last Will and Testament, the cornerstone of a basic estate planning , estate planning trust, glbt estate planning, lgbt estate planning, gay family law, wills, trusts

Basic estate plans should also include health care documentation known as Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney, or Healthcare Proxies. A Living Will states exactly what measures a person wants or does not want if certain specifically outlined medical conditions arise. It does not, however, authorize another person to make those decisions for the Principal of the Living Will.  A Medical Power of Attorney allows a designated person to have access to medical records and make specified medical decisions for the Principal.  For more information on basic estate planning, read my article here.

Trust Planning – A family estate planning trust is useful for parents who may not want to pass significant amounts of money to their minor children upon the parent’s deaths.  Trusts allow a parent to spread payments out over a longer period of time, appoint a trustee to manage those payments, provide for investment suggestions or advisors and include provisions to protect a beneficiary child if they have a substance abuse issue.

Trusts can also be useful tools to either bypass the probate process, which in many states can be long and complicated (a revocable trust), or to avoid estate taxation in the form of an irrevocable trust. For more information about how a family estate planning trust can help your family, read my article here.

Guardianship Planning – There are two general types of Guardianship Designations that are important parts of any estate plan.  The first is an adult Guardianship Designation, the second, a Guardianship designation for your children.  A child’s Guardianship Designation allows the parents of a minor to legally give another person the right to be designated by a court as the guardian of the child’s property and person.

Unless you are naming your child’s other biological or legal parent as their guardian, you must name a guardian in your Last Will and Testament. Once named, the designated guardians will still have to go to court to be legally designated the child’s guardian.  Without your nomination in a Will, that person would not be able to seek guardianship.

Securing Parental Rights Through Adoption – While most parents are secure in their parentage to the children living in their homes, many situations do not fit into that norm and basic protections become a vital part of family estate planning.  Same-sex couples must secure rights to the children born into their relationships through parentage order or second or step parent adoption.  Homes where children are living with step parents must pay particular attention to naming a guardian should both biological parents die.  The second or step parent adoption process in New York  is described in detail in this article.

When family estate planning becomes a priority for you, please consider me a resource. For more information on family estate planning, contact Anthony M. Brown at Time for Families and speak to a specialist family lawyer to secure your and your family’s future.

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Study Says Women in Lesbian Relationships Feel More Parental Stress

A Williams Institute study from the University of California Los Angeles has found women in lesbian relationships feel more parental stress than straight couples.

Ninety-five lesbian parent households were compared with 95 straight parent households to “compare same-sex and different-sex parent households with stable, continuously coupled parents and their biological offspring.”
The study found that in terms of the children’s emotional difficulties, coping behaviors and learning behaviors, there was no difference between those raised in the different households.
However, lesbian parents did experience higher stress levels.parental stress
“Some of our earlier studies have shown that lesbian mothers feel pressured to justify the quality of their parenting because of their sexual orientation,” psychiatrist and co-author of the research, Dr. Nanette Gartrell said.
In the study, parents from both households were matched for characteristics such as age, urban or rural residence, their children’s age, race and gender and whether the parents or children were born in the United States or elsewhere.
Gartrell focused on lesbian couples because there were smaller numbers of male same-sex couples that fit the criteria. The families studied showed no history of family instability or transitions such as divorce or separation and all parents had been raising their own biological children from 6 to 17 from birth.
“This study is consistent with the literature over the last 30 years, with the overwhelming consensus that kids do better with two parents than one parents, and that there’s very little difference in long-term mental health for kids when their raised by either same-sex or different-sex parents,” psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and editor of Journal of Gay and Lesbian Mental Health, Dr. Jack Drescher said.
It’s estimated that 690,000 same-sex couples live in the United States and 19 percent of them are raising children under 18.

Click here to read the entire article.

by Kelly Morris, – May 24, 2016

Same-sex unions are not enough, say exiled Italian gay parents

When the Italian parliament this week gave the green light to same-sex couples – becoming the last western European country to do so – the Trevi fountain in Rome was lit up in rainbow colours to celebrate, hailing the move as a major step forward for LGBT rights.

But for Italian families living abroad, the spectre of discrimination against gay couples lives on in restrictive adoption laws which can lead to gay parents having no legal rights over their children by a largely conservative, Catholic and sometimes hostile court system.

Current legislation gives same-sex couples the right to share a surname, draw on their partner’s pension when they die and inherit each other’s assets in the same way as married people.

But it has been fiercely criticised for not providing full equality for gay couples, particularly in terms of adoption rights. While adoption has not been ruled out, family judges will decide on a case-by-case surrogacy

It means that families who have already adopted abroad will have to go through lengthy court procedures to have their adoption recognised in Italy.

Among them are Giovanni and Marco, two Italian dads living abroad who say they can never return home for fear of the state viewing them as strangers to their adopted children.

“The adoption [of our children] is not recognised by the Italian state, so we could be legally treated as strangers to each other,” they told the Telegraph.

“Whenever we cross the Italian border the parental responsibility over our children falls in a legal grey area. We travel with the contact details of the British Foreign Office and the Adoption Order in case anyone starts questioning ‘why the mother is not travelling with the children?'”

Carolina Girardelli, an Italian lawyer specialising in international adoption, said: “Children [adopted abroad] have no rights as Italian citizens [if their parents are gay].

“You can ask a family judge to recognise your adoption papers but in Italy we have the Church, and a lot of Catholic judges. If one of them is against gay unions, you could lose the case.”

by Mauro Galluzo, May 15, 2016 –

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